It Only Sounds Romantic In Stories


Even though we live on the Canadian prairies, these days, far fewer families actually make a living farming.  The latest stats provided by this Alberta Agriculture Report in 2006 state that there were 49,431 farms in Alberta.  A decline of 7.9 percent from their previous survey in 2001.  What’s interesting is the total area of farmed land actually increased.  This means there are fewer people farming in Alberta, but those who do, manage larger enterprises to make a living at it.

Woman Milking Cow

photo source

At the turn of the 20th century, My Great Grandpa Nic brought his young family to Canada on a hope and a prayer. He was already in his 40’s, in a new country and didn’t even speak english.  Like all who were immigrating at the time, he brought only a strong desire to be free and own land.  I can’t imagine all that manual labour in my 40’s. Here’s the only picture I have of Great Grandpa Nic.  Looks like he was plumb worn down, poor guy.

Great Grandpa

Great Grandpa

His ‘Application For Homestead’ in 1902 states that he had 1 pig, 4 cattle and a well and that they broke 1 acre and cropped 1 acre. All by hand I’m certain. Even when his son, my grandpa John, was farming in the 1920’s and 1930’s, much of the farming was still done by horse power alone.

Grandpa John & his team

Grandpa John & his team

Farming operations changed slowly over the years and by the time my dad was growing up on the farm, grandpa John had both horses and a gas-powered tractor.  You knew your neighbours and people pitched in to help each other.  I wonder if communities have that opportunity now with farms being so big?

Neighbours helped each other

Neighbours helped each other

I think I tend to have this romantic notion of life on the farm. There were cute hand sewn dresses hanging on the laundry line, fresh baking in the oven of a wood stove, cats and chickens everywhere.

Oh the romance

Oh the romance

In reality, many families barely got by. Their wallets were as thin as the well-worn boots on their feet. Luckily, human nature tends to remember the best part of life’s experiences.  My dads face would light up talking about growing up on the farm.  He told me how my grandma would plant lot’s of flowers all around their house. With no plan, she’d open penny seed packs, mix them with sand in a bowl and just scatter them around the house.  Can you imagine a more carefree method?  She had no time to nurture her love of flowers, maybe it was laundry day, baking day or rock picking day. The list of chores was long.  Seems life on the farm wasn’t romantic after all, it only sounds romantic in stories.

Dad looked all spiffy in white while his cousin was a disaster, HA

Dad looked all spiffy in white, while his cousin was a disaster, HA

Do you ever wish you lived on a farm?

Related posts

History In The Shadows

We Would Have A Lot In Common


48 responses »

  1. Wonderful! Growing up, I often told me mother how I wanted to have been a pioneer woman. She being much more practical and much less the romantic, always mentioned the hygiene, food and comfort (she knew I could handle the work).
    How great that you have such good documentation of your families history!

    • Your mom’s a wise woman, HA. I think I’m over the hard work part too.

      My Aunty and I did a project to allow my family name to be placed on a marker at the Ukrainian Village near Edmonton. It honours the first settlers of the area. We spent time at our Provincial Archives to get copies of Census from the early 1900’s and land title documents etc. I was surprised at the amount of information that is available. Thanks so much for your message!

  2. It’s fun to see what farming was like in Alberta years ago. I absolutely love the picture of the woman milking the cow. It helps me picture what it might have been like when my grandmother milked cows as a teen-ager.

    • Thanks for your message Sheryl. The first picture is the only one not a family photo. It’s a collection of farming postcards on the net. Click the ‘photo source’ link in red below the photo to go there. You’ll love it. Lots of fun images. xK

  3. We value things differently at different stages of our life, don’t we? They sound charming. Maybe one day you’ll run into one in an antique store.

    I got excited last week (though it didn’t last) when I saw small bundles of old letters (three to a pack) at Scrapbook Island. They had Canadian stamps and postmarks, but dated 1956. I so wanted them to be your birthday year. I’ll keep my eyes peeled!

    • There’s actually an antique show this weekend in Edmonton, today was too snowy but maybe tomorrow I skip down there. I keep thinking I’ll walk into an antique store and see my grandparents in the oval frame that was snitched from the house when my grandpa moved to town…that’d be very cool.
      (( Alys )) you’re adorable to think of me at the scrapbook store, thank you my sweet friend. What a fun thing to find. They really have interesting stuff there. Treasured Memories in Edmonton sell paper ephemera, I find it hard to resist. I’ve bought things and pin them on my bulletin board to be inspired. xoxoK

  4. yes my mother used to tell me stories about how hard it was for people back in her days and my grandmothers day. I am so glad I live in 2013. People of today wouldn’t have a clue of how hard life can be. Especially if everything has to be made from scratch and the education was not all that great either if you couldn’t afford to pay for the best. Thanks for the post.

  5. Pingback: Always a frontier | Defeat Despair

  6. Great Story Petals – nd the pictures are perfect. Do u know if Joan ever had a picture of gr. grandma -or maybe Doreen from Red deer, she died quite young, I think? Talk soon. LUL

    • Hi Aunty, was it Grandma Anne’s cousin Rose we met up with for breakfast who had a picture of everyone standing or sitting near a farm building? We should call her up again. She’d xerox’d the original, but it’d be better if I scan it. Thanks for your message, sorry we couldn’t get out to Spruce Grove today, darn weather. I’ll catch up with Joan on the weekend to make a new plan. LUL xoK

  7. Great photos and a lovely story to go with them. I think you’re dead on: we romanticize what is a very hard life, and in many cases barely a subsistence. I think its true of life in general, that we like to remember the good times while discarding the rest. How wonderful to have this heritage, these photos, and most of all, the stories that have been passed down. Lovely.

    • Thank you my dear, I’m so lucky to have a few pics and family who’ll share what they know and their few photo’s too. Now with everyone having a camera on their phone, a great grandchild in 2030 will look online and say, “Wow gran, you were a real party girl, look at you at that shooter bar”. There’ll be no mystique or romanticizing about the past, it’ll be incased in reality. The way we look at our history will all change.

      • You are so right! No..’whatever happened to’ stories, either. Maybe the next trend will be under-sharing. What? You don’t have an account on Twitter.Facebook.LinkedIn.Tumblr.Instagram??? How do you manage?


        Says the woman who loves her social media….

      • Ah, but digital history can be erased and revised all too easily. Pictures can be photoshopped and entire histories can be re-written. I guess I’ve read too many dystopia novels to feel confident that history will be kept even as accurately as it is now! BTW, does anyone know how to archive copies of our blogs to keep for posterity (just in case anyone cares?) I suppose you could do “save as web page” for each and every post, but that could become unwieldy with so many separate files to deal with. Any ideas?

      • I think throughout time, history has been bent and interpreted by the author. We really have no way of verifying ancient histories. You’re right Julia, it can be manipulated so easily.
        I’m not sure if there is a way to archive your blog. There might be something in Forums thru the Support Link. I guess as long as there’s a WP your Blog would be available on line. Sorry I couldn’t be more help.

      • I can’t seem to reply to Julia’s comment below, but on the subject of archiving, you can subscribe to Back Up Buddy, and it will automatically do it for you. I think it’s $5 a month. You can also back up your site manually.

      • Oh thanks hon, I’ve not heard of that before. I should read more into that myself, I’ll be sure to let Julia know.

        Are you currently using Backup Buddy?…I just watched the tutorials, a lot there. I’ll need to go back tomorrow. Thanks a bunch Alys, You’re always on top of these things. mwaaaaa.

      • OMGosh, I dread to think. I sent an email to Julia with your tip and added a couple of links. Thanks for the heads up. Before Julia asked, I’d never even gone there. You girls are so organized. Thanks for always sharing your knowledge with us Alys, we learn so much when we share.

      • Aren’t you sweet for saying so, and for sharing the info with Julia.

        I learned a lot from MaAnna Stephenson of Blog Aid. She helped me learn the ropes on, a bit different but lots of crossover.

        There is always something new to learn, isn’t there? Then they go and change it! LOL

      • I’m afraid I don’t keep up, I still haven’t decided on a phone and continue with my old old cell phone…it’s down right embarrassing to make a call in public…I feel like I’m pulling out an old rotary phone…LOL.

      • I thought you bought an iPhone. I must have been thinking of your new laptop.

        I think someone needs to invent a rotary cellphone. It would make a person think twice before making a prank call. 😉

  8. What a wonderful story! I also often wondered what it would be like to grow up on the farm… but we spent many summers at Aunty Lena’s, so I had my fill! Cutting a head off a chicken, milking cows and stepping in cow patties doesn’t quite cut it for me! But, stick me in a cottage in the mountains, and I’d fish by the stream, bake bread, go berry picking, make preserves, sew, go for long walks and write a novel!

    • LOL, you paint a charming picture and I can totally see you doing all that and more…kind of like Heidi. I’d read that novel! I always thought Aunty Lena’s place was so nice. All tidy. I really like the smell of a farm too. Or maybe that’s how the world smells without gas emissions filling your nose. I was never around for the chicken thing, I would have been scarred for life. I think we could easily live on Bread and Jelly…..see you up there. xoxox

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it Laurie. We got a taste of it on a much smaller scale living in the country for 25 years. We had a pretty generous sized yard and it seemed like a full time job most summers. It was fun when I was in my 20’s and 30’s but I’m so over it. Any new home we’ll cut back for sure. Have a wonderful weekend! 🙂

      • You’ve had the chance to experience both country and city living. Often people think about retiring to the country, when in reality, do what you did makes more sense.

      • Oh yes, while we cherish all all memories of lake life, you’re oh-so right Alys, retiring to the country would be madness. The hi-way driving in Alberta alone will make your grey hairs stand on end. We’re much happier to be near theatres and restaurants these days. We are into the a cushier retirement plan. LOL

      • Nice. Very nice. You are a wise woman. Life is good…and will get even better when you can feather your new nest.

        I forgot to mention how much I love the part about mixing penny seeds with sand and then scattering them. Beautiful.

      • So sweetly put, feathering my nest. awwww (( Alys )).

        Thank you for coming back to tell me this. I wonder if my Grandma was using one of those old white tin bowls with the floral painting inside. There were always a few rusty ones hanging around when I was a kid. Wish I had been smart enough to rescue them and bring them home.

  9. Living and working on a farm sounds like a lot of work. Heck, at my age, sometimes it is work just trying to get out of bed in the mornings! We have our small garden 6′ x 16′ and that is a lot of work in itself. Great post Boomy! Can you actually see me milking a cow? LOL

    • LOL, actually Valerie…yes I can and I think you’re are doing it with gusto and a smile on your face 😀 But by the time you’ve done it 365 days in a row, I’m sure it would be less fun. 6′ x 16′ sounds like plenty of garden to me. I guess if it meant eating or not eating, I’d do what I had to, but it really was a hard life. Have an awesome weekend, we are digging out of a major spring snow storm with more forecast for the supper hour…just in time for the evening commute….urggg.

  10. That was fascinating! I love the old photos. We love living in the country, but would not want to run a farm – too much like hard work! Well, that’s what my bipeds say – I think I might enjoy keeping an eye on some sheep!

    • Hi Clowie, yes I think you’d be a good sheep watcher. Tails waggin’, they are so adorable. My Grandpa John only had a few animals, he mostly made crops. I remember running thru fields of wheat as a kid. You’re right, sooooo much work. Not for me today, staying home because of heavy snow 😀 have a great weekend!

    • How nice to remind you of family. I guess most people will have some farmers in their histories. When I think of our history, this isn’t too long ago really, surprising what changes in a lifetime. Thanks for visiting Kha.

    • Thanks Heidi for that cheer and the link to you friends, neice’s Blog. I love her Blog name too, very clever. I can’t wait to check that out. I’m a total history hound so I can’t wait. We are digging out of a foot and some of snow this morning…..glad I don’t live in the country, I need milk..LOL

Talk nerdy to me………..

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s